GPs want HPV programme expanded

Exclusive - More than half of GPs told not to vaccinate outside the national programme.

Patients could be unfairly denied HPV jabs, after a GP survey found that more than half of primary care organisations (PCOs) were limiting access to the vaccine.

More than half of GPs who took part in the survey said that their PCO had asked them not to vaccinate outside the UK-wide programme's limits.

But almost three-quarters said the programme should be expanded to include women over the age of 25, and half thought boys as well as girls should be vaccinated.

A total of 32 per cent of GPs said they were currently vaccinating patients outside the national programme. But more than two-thirds of the 101 respondents said that they would be prepared to do so if a patient who was not sexually active but fell outside the programme asked for the jab.

Last month, GP revealed PCTs were pressuring GPs to restrict access to the HPV vaccine to save money.

Cornwall GP Dr Sarah Gray, who has a special interest in women's health, said the HPV vaccination programme was developed on cost principles that may not translate to the needs of individual patients.

'PCTs across the country have been allowed to develop a local stance on the ethical dilemmas this situation has created,' Dr Gray said. 'Clinical indication has become blurred by cost implication and another postcode lottery has been allowed to develop.'

GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said GPs had to retain the final say on whether to provide the vaccine. 'GPs facing requests for HPV jabs from women and girls outside the programme need to decide whether to provide them on a case-by-case basis,' he said.

The GP survey also found that although 50 per cent of practices were carrying out vaccinations under the national programme, either alone or alongside school nurses, only 49 per cent of these were receiving any additional funding for the work involved.

RCGP vice-chair Dr Clare Gerada, who has an interest in sexual health, said: 'While I welcome the programme, I think there should have been a lot more thought given to how it was introduced.'

'The programme is very labour intensive and GPs would welcome some additional income for providing vaccinations,' Dr Gerada said.

Of the survey respondents, 93 per cent of GPs said they believed the HPV jab was necessary. However 18 per cent were concerned that it could encourage promiscuity among young people and drive up rates of STIs.

Just 5 per cent of respondents reported that they had seen adverse reactions to the HPV jab.

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